Filed under: Honest Nutrition
Your Quick Guide to Reading Nutrition Labels

Nutrition

Walk into any supermarket and you’ll see thousands of items to choose from. But how do we select the healthiest foods for ourselves and our families? Luckily, we can rely on nutrition labels to guide us in making the healthiest choices. Reading every label might seem overwhelming at first but when you know what to look for, the nutrition label becomes a tool that can help you make smarter choices. (TIP: Always go to the market on a full stomach and with a grocery list to avoid purchasing any unhealthy items!). Here are seven important things to look for when reading nutrition labels:

 

Serving Size 

This number is at the top for a reason: The nutritional information on the rest of the label applies to one serving. The FDA sets serving sizes for all foods―they are measurements, not recommendations, which is an important thing to remember. Total calories are calculated per serving, so be sure to look at the servings per container. A box of crackers might list a serving as 150 calories, but the entire box might be three servings, or 450 calories.

 

Percent of Daily Value (DV)

This is calculated based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. A tip for using the %DV is that anything 5%DV and lower is considered “low” and anything 20%DV or higher is considered “high.” So for things like fat, cholesterol, and sodium look for 5% or less and for things like fiber, vitamins, and calcium look for 20% or more.

 

“Reduced Sugar,” “Low Sugar,” or “ No Sugar Added”

Unfortunately these labels aren’t synonymous with “low calorie.” “Reduced sugar” means the product contains 25 percent less sugar than the original form. “Low sugar” isn’t a regulated term and can mean anything. “No sugar added” simply indicates that no sugar was introduced during the preparation, cooking, or baking process — not that the product is low in sugar. It may contain fructose, which still shows up as “sugar” on the nutrition-facts panel (as with unsweetened applesauce, for instance). Tip: Try calculating sugar content in teaspoons for an eye opening experience. First, find the number of grams of sugar in one serving of the product. Four grams of sugar equal about 1 teaspoon. The American Heart Association recommends a daily maximum of about 6-8 teaspoons (or 24-32 grams) of added sugar (meaning sugar that’s beyond what food naturally contains). And remember: Even if you don’t see sugar in the ingredients, it might be there. It goes by many other names, including molasses, evaporated cane juice, nectar, corn sweetener, honey, syrup, and anything ending with -ose (sucrose, dextrose, fructose, maltose).

 

“Extra Lean”

Meat, poultry, or seafood labeled “extra lean” must meet strict requirements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Every 100-gram serving (about 3.5 ounces) must have fewer than 5 grams of total fat, fewer than 2 grams of saturated fat, and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol. If you’re cutting back on fat, extra-lean products are a better choice than those labeled “lean,” which can contain up to twice as much total fat (10 grams) and saturated fat (4.5 grams) per serving, with the same maximum amount of cholesterol.

 

“Low Fat” or “Reduced Fat”

Foods labeled “low fat” are required by the FDA to contain fewer than 3 grams of fat per serving. “Reduced fat” means the food must contain at least 25 percent less fat than the original form. Tip: Low fat or reduced fat isn’t always the best option. Sometimes there are nutritional tradeoffs: Reduced-fat peanut butter, for example, may contain more sodium and sugar to make it taste better. Read the nutrition facts before you buy.

 

“99 Percent Fat-Free”

This one involves you to go back to your high school math class…“99 percent fat-free” means that 99 percent of a given weight of the food is fat-free. If the food weighs 100 grams, 1 gram comes from fat. Every gram of fat contains 9 calories, so depending on the serving size, a 99 percent fat-free food may contain more fat calories than you would expect.

 

“Multigrain”

This one tends to confuse a lot of folks. What it really means is that your bread, cereal, chips, or crackers contain two or more grains. They are not necessarily whole grains, which are a better nutritional choice than refined ones. With refined grains (such as white bread, or wheat breads that aren’t specifically labeled “whole wheat”), the nutrient and fiber rich parts have been milled out. The current recommendation is to make sure at least half your daily grains are whole. Tip: Whole-grain products list the word whole (as in “whole wheat” or “whole oats”) among the first few ingredients. You might also look for the Whole Grains Council’s symbol. Companies can pay to join this organization and receive its “stamp” on products that deliver at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving.

 

This information pertains to products with food labels, which you can typically find on most items in the supermarket and some at the farmer’s market. Try to do most of your shopping on the outer rim of the market where you’ll find fruits, vegetables, dairy, nuts, beans, and other whole foods to avoid having to look at too many food labels on processed foods. Choose items with as few ingredients as possible and use the information above to be an educated shopper!

 

Save these quick tips to your health-related Pinterest board for quick reference in the grocery store:

Nutrition Labels 4

 

 

Be Well, Be NutritionWise!

~ Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD, CSP, CLC

 

 

Heart Healthy Foods You Should Be Eating

heart healthy foods 1

We love when foods are healthy for our bodies and taste great, too! Since February is American Heart Month we want to give you a list of heart healthy foods to incorporate into your diet year-round.

One of the best ways to take care of your body, including your heart, is to eat a well-balanced diet. Consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is key for heart health. Try to eat these foods as close to their natural form as possible, which allows your body absorb nutrients without too much added fat or salt.

Check out our list below to find out why these foods are so heart healthy!

heart healthy foods 2

Vegetables and fruits: Okay, so this is a bit broad, but veggies and fruits are typically high in fiber, vitamins, and nutrients, while being naturally low in fat, making them insanely good for your heart! Eating a high fiber, low fat diet is known to lower your risk of heart disease. Plus, vegetables and fruits are high in phytonutrients, which repair damaged cells. This is an essential function to prevent heart disease, according to WebMD. You can find phytonutrients in most foods we consider to be healthy — vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains. So eat up!

Soy: Some experts have suggested that a diet high in phytoestrogens (present in soy) explain the low incidence of estrogen-related cancers and heart disease in Asian women, who typically consume a diet high in soy. Eating soy protein in place of meat is a heart-healthy choice since soy contains less saturated fat than red meat. Whenever possible buy certified organic and non-GMO soy products.

Seafood: Most seafood is a great replacement for red meat since it’s high in protein and low in unhealthy fats. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows to decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, decrease triglyceride levels, and slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque. But when buying seafood, avoid fish known to be high in mercury and PCBs, which are linked to memory problems in children, thyroid problems, and possibly cancer. You can do this by buying wild caught fish, and more importantly research which fish are safest to eat where you live.

Nuts: Walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds contain healthy amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower the risk of heart disease and other heart issues.

Red wine: Red wine can be heart-healthy if consumed in moderation because of it contains flavonoids — a powerful antioxidant believed by scientists to reduce coronary heart disease. If you have a cocktail a couple times a week, think about switching to red wine. We recommend you buy organic red wine because it’s healthier (fewer pesticides) and more eco-friendly. And dryer red wines are your best bet for a healthy dose of antioxidants. But watch your portions: a 4-ounce glass is all you need to reap the benefits.

Tea: Many teas also contain flavonoids called flavanols. Green tea contains the most flavonoids — you may have heard of this particular one, it’s called ECGC and is more powerful than vitamin C. The flavonoids in green tea have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and when consumed daily can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Dark Chocolate: The darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids it contains. Eating dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the heart. However, keep in mind you’ll also be eating some sugars and fats, so you might need to cut out something that day to balance your calorie intake.

 

Take heart in knowing these foods (and drinks!) are key for a healthy life!

 

How often do you think about heart health? What do you eat, or do, to keep your heart healthy? Tell us in the comments.

 

 

 

Raising An Adventurous Eater: Start with Homemade Baby Food

Adventurous eater 1

When it comes to dinnertime, many parents want their children to do more than simply eat their greens. They’re thinking Thai, Indian, Greek and want their little ones develop a taste for a variety of cuisines adults enjoy—or at least give them a shot. So, how can you help ensure your child has an open mind when it comes to trying new foods?

An article in The Washington Post tells of one couple’s determination to have their baby eat pure, whole foods and avoid the bland and beige (one idea for healthy and adventurous eating!). This isn’t surprising considering the new father is a food writer who wants to improve his baby food making skills. So, he meets with a chef and parent of three to learn a few tricks for crafting purees that match the ingredients of the flavorful meals he and his wife enjoy eating. The combinations the chef creates are unique, tasty, and designed for kids: curried carrots, minted pineapple mango, basiled beets and strawberries, sweet potatoes with a dash of crushed red pepper flakes, and cauliflower with cumin.

The good news is that you don’t need a culinary degree to give this a try. Making your own baby food is easy. It’s healthy and fresh because you know what goes into it. You can tailor purees to suit your baby’s tastes and dietary needs. And it’s a great cost-saving measure.

Here are three baby food recipes you can make in your kitchen:

Basic Veggie Baby Food: Honest Co-Founder Jessica Alba has a great basic baby food recipe in her book The Honest Life. This recipe offers solid nutrition for your children and exposes them to the fragrant flavor of ginger.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound vegetables. Jessica uses organic carrots, organic squash, organic cauliflower, and organic broccoli.
  • Organic chicken stock
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • Drizzle of organic olive oil

Directions: Combine all veggies, ginger, salt, and broth in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook until veggies are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from stove and place in a blender with homemade applesauce or an organic banana, plus a small amount of organic olive oil. As your child gets older, you can toss in meat and quinoa. Let cool and store in reusable glass jars.

 

Savory Baby Food: The earthy flavor of sage compliments the creamy (and nutritious!) sweet potatoes. (This recipe has been adapted from Christine Dionese’s recipe on Pure Mamas.)

Ingredients

  • 3 organic sweet potatoes
  • 1 organic avocado (does not need to be steamed)
  • 3 organic sage leaves
  • 1 tsp. organic coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp. organic chia powder

Directions: Peel sweet potatoes and slice into small chunks. Place in a steamer basket and steam until easily pierced with a fork. Add potatoes, avocado, sage, coconut oil, and chia powder to a high-powered blender and blend for 30 second to a minute.  

 

Chickpea Baby Food. This healthy baby food combines fiber-rich chickpeas and healthy greens. (This recipe has been adapted from Mother Nature Network and OurLittleLentil.) 

Ingredients

  • 1 can organic chickpeas, or chickpeas from the bulk section of the grocery store — soaked and cooked
  • Frozen organic peas
  • Fresh organic spinach
  • Garlic
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Organic vegetable broth
  • Small amount of coconut oil

Directions: Saute the garlic in the coconut oil for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add spinach and let it wilt. Add peas, chickpeas, cumin and broth. Blend with an immersion blender or add mixture to a high-powered blender and puree.

 

Because we know convincing your child to try new foods can be challenging, green chef and contributor Juli Novotny shares some tips for getting your little one to enjoy new flavors:

  • Find out what your son or daughter enjoys, what they are just okay with, and what they could get better at eating. Try preparing the foods they don’t care for in new ways and congratulate them on eating the healthy foods they love.
  • Explain to your child that healthy food will make him stronger. “My son will eat 10 pieces of broccoli when I tell him that his muscles got bigger from them,” Juli says.
  • When your child is in the room grab your spouse or a grandparent and say something like, “I’m so glad I ate my vegetables last night because it got me through my work day,” or “I’m so happy that I drank that green smoothie because it made me run so fast today.”
  • Don’t give up! Keep trying. Sometimes you have to offer a food to him five-plus times before he is willing to try it.
  • Kids aren’t going to love everything adults love. Adults eat very rich foods—our palates are more advanced and our taste buds a bit less sensitive, so don’t worry if your little ones don’t want to try all of the healthy and tasty flavors you enjoy.

What are your tips for developing your children’s palate for a variety of foods?      

How to Combat the ‘Festive 15′

festive 15

The holidays can be a time where people throw caution to the wind and let loose. Unfortunately, those choices rear their ugly heads in the New Year when you step on scale or find a favorite outfit a bit snug. By maintaining a balanced regimen, you can still enjoy the festivities of the holidays and avoid the aftermath. Follow the tips below so you will launch into the New Year ahead of the game!

Drink Responsibly

Our bodies cannot store alcohol and make every effort to get it out of our system. Alcohol negatively affects our blood sugar and can cause low blood sugar also known as hypoglycemia. It is the hypoglycemia that increases hunger resulting in the munchies afterwards. Alcohol has no nutrients, fat, carbohydrates, or protein, but this blood sugar imbalance can greatly affect weight.

Tips to Drink Smarter:

  • Never drink on an empty stomach.
  • Consider alcohol your treat and maintain a very clean diet consisting of vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
  • Moderation is key — for men, no more than 4 drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week. For women, no more than 3 drinks per day and no more than 7 drinks per week.
  • Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage.
  • Alcohol impairs absorption of nutrients, so take a good B-complex vitamin before a night out to avoid or reduce a hangover.
  • Avoid diet soda mixers and carbonated beverages as the rate of intoxication increases.
  • Consult your doctor if you are taking medications as liver metabolism is altered when drinking.

Contribute to the Festivities

If you have particular diet needs, bring a dish to your events even if it is not a potluck. People never say no to more delicious food and you remain guilt-free. Try one of these crowd-pleasing hummus recipes.

Avoid Banking Calories

Many people “bank” food for the day, so they can indulge more in the evening. This tactic usually backfires as you will find yourself ravenous by the time the evening comes. Eat healthy meals consisting of lean protein, healthy fats, and vegetables if you know you are going to indulge later.

Keep up with Sleep

The holiday season can bring about long evenings, but staying on top of your sleep will help you reduce stress and fatigue. The fatigue from lack of sleep can lead your body to crave more food, particularly sugar and salt, to maintain energy levels.

Exercise First Thing in Morning

During the holidays, it is more likely that last-minute exciting activities will derail your plans. Getting your exercise out of the way in the morning allows you to check it off the list and stoke your metabolism from the get-go.

Implement your New Year’s Resolutions Early

Gyms are typically less crowded in December. By combining cardiovascular exercise like walking, cycling, jogging, or swimming with weight training, you can increase your metabolism and build muscle to burn more calories. If you are traveling, plan a body weight regimen ahead to keep you on track.

What is your strategy to avoid the “Festive 15″? 

- Dr. Thalia Farshchian, Naturopathic Doctor

This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary/health changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.

3 Health Benefits of Family Dinners

family dinners

As we move into the holidays, we have the opportunity to celebrate with those we care about most over a delicious meal. Let these opportunities be a reminder for the rest of the year to create time with the people we love while enjoying healthy food. The benefits of these experiences go beyond bonding and can actually impact our health in a positive way.

Eating with loved ones creates an environment that releases brain chemicals that stimulate proper digestion. The process begins with cooking. When our kitchens and homes have the aroma of delectable foods, our sense of smell stimulates our brain to create good digestive juices in the stomach, like hydrochloric acid, and releases enzymes from the pancreas. Here are three ways that eating with loved ones is healthy for our body and soul:

1. Slowing down: When we dine with people whose company we enjoy, the body relaxes and we sit back and slow down. This is good for our bodies because healthy digestion begins in our mouths. Salivary amylase and lipase break down fat and carbohydrates before they reach our stomachs. Eating rapidly causes us to skip this important first step. The goal is to chew food about 25 times per bite. When food is chewed slowly, the body has time to produce stomach acid and digestive enzymes and once it reaches the stomach, the hormone ghrelin signals satiety to the brain. Eating rapidly impairs feedback to the brain and will leave you feeling fuller than necessary.

2.  Healthier eating habits: Rutgers reviewed 68 studies around the topic of family meals and found that 40% of the average family’s budget is spent eating out, typically not together. Families who ate together at home raised children who ate more fruits, vegetables, fiber, vitamin-rich foods, and consumed less fast food. These families also had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than the families who frequently ate out.

3.  Reduces stress and improves mood: Laughing and pleasant conversation improves the experience of eating and reduces stress levels. Regular family meals (without the television on) encourage communication, bonding, and interpersonal support. Teens who ate with their families versus eating alone were less likely to show signs of depression or risk taking behavior.

Need inspiration for your next family dinner? Check out our great Honest recipes that are healthy, easy, and delicious.

- Dr. Thalia Farshchian, Naturopathic Doctor

This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary/health changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.